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San Jose gun owners will be required to buy liability insurance, pay annual fee to subsidize police response

Row of handguns. (US Coast Guard Academy/Released)
July 01, 2021

On Wednesday, San Jose, Calif. became the first city in the nation to move forward with a mandate that gun owners purchase liability insurance and pay a yearly fee to help relieve the taxpayer burden related to gun violence response.

In a unanimous vote, the San Jose City Council decided to draft an order that mandated gun owners obtain insurance and pay an annual fee to subsidize law enforcement, ambulances, medical treatment and other expenses resulting from gun violence, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“The @CityofSanJose is taking action against gun violence with this first-of-its-kind landmark decision,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo tweeted following the council’s decision. “The Second Amendment protects the rights of Americans to own guns, but doesn’t require taxpayers to subsidize gun ownership. #EndGunViolence.”

Liccardo said the amount of the fee has yet to be determined, but it will likely be “a couple dozen dollars” and those who could not afford it would not be charged.

“While the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, it does not require taxpayers to subsidize gun ownership,” said Liccardo in a statement. “We won’t magically end gun violence, but we will stop paying for it. We can also better care for its victims, and reduce gun-related injuries and death through sensible interventions.”

According to a preliminary report by the Pacific Institute on Research and Evaluation, San Jose spends just over $60 million annually on incidents involving guns, including homicides, suicides, and other shootings. The city said it will wait until the institute releases its final report in the fall to determine its fees.

On June 15, the city passed a law requiring firearm retailers to video record all gun purchases. Retailers have 90 days to comply with the new law.

“The sale or transfer of a Firearm or of Firearm Ammunition to persons who are not sworn peace officers shall be recorded by the video surveillance system in such a way that the facial features of the purchaser or transferee are clearly visible,” the ordinance says.

The mandate seeks to combat “straw purchasing,” or the act of buying a gun for someone else who may not be able to legally purchase a firearm himself. 

“We know a significant number of crooks and gangs get firearms through straw purchasing,” Liccardo said during a council meeting. “This set of ordinances is really focused on narrowing the flow of guns to those which are clearly legal and hopefully doing something to deter the flow of guns that are unlawful to own.”

The new requirements come one month after a mass shooting in a San Jose rail yard left 10 dead, including the shooter.